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Find Khashoggis killer or youll be helping Iran, Boris Johnson tells Saudis

Former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has put forth an intriguing argument for finding the kille..

Former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has put forth an intriguing argument for finding the killers of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi: not doing so will help Iran! Oh, and maybe the war on Yemen is bad, also.

Khashoggi, a self-exiled critic of the current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. Ankara immediately accused Riyadh of murdering the journalist, with anonymous government officials offering many graphic accounts of his death. After initially denying the accusations, the Saudis admitted Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. The investigation is ongoing.

Writing in the Post on Thursday, Johnson seemed confident he knew all the facts already.

“I dont have any doubt about what happened: the plot to lure him to the Saudi consulate; the savage attack by heavies from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans own security team; the dismembering of the body,” he said. “Nor do I doubt for a second that this disgusting assassination was ordered at the highest levels of the Saudi regime.”

Interestingly, Johnsons phrasing about the “highest levels” is identical to that of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who wrote that the Turks “know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” in an opinion piece the Post published last week.

Though Erdogan did not once mention Bin Salmans name, it was abundantly clear from the piece that he was advocating a palace coup in Riyadh in which King Salman would pick another successor – someone less hostile to Turkey and Qatar, perhaps.

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Boris appears to be of the same mind, but he took a different tack: if the Saudis dont punish those who ordered Khashoggis killing – and end the war in Yemen while theyre at it – this would “boost Iran, and all regional critics of the Saudi regime.

Iran as the root of all evil in the Middle East is a trope frequently invoked by the Trump administration, the Saudis and Israel, and Boris goes to great lengths to acknowledge that he agrees with it. However, he writes, “we will not put Iran back in its box unless we accept that the Iranians are also highly skillful at exploiting the consequences of the policies of the West and its allies.

As examples, he lists the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the 2003 US invasion that “virtually handed [Iraq] them on a plate,” and the “Wests limp-wristed and ultimately abortive attempts” at regime change in Syria. In Yemen, Johnson argues, Tehran had “virtually no influence… and no real strategic interest” until the Saudi-led coalition began its “ill-fated campaign” in 2015.

While the Saudis and their allies may be legally right in Yemen, Johnson writes, “the plain fact is that the campaign has not been successful.

Both the murder of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen are bad for Saudi Arabia and good for Iran, he concludes.

Johnson visited Saudi Arabia in September, for a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip he said was related to a “campaign of improving education for women and girls.” He resigned from Theresa Mays government in July, reportedly due to disagreements over Britains exit from the EU. Recent polls show him tied with May for the most popular politician in the UK.

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“That is Wales, isnt it?” Nigel Farage struggles on the campaign trail

On the European elections campaign trail, leader of the Brexit Party and eternal ballot box botherer..

On the European elections campaign trail, leader of the Brexit Party and eternal ballot box botherer Nigel Farage decided to visit the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil.

The only problem was, he clearly had no idea how his partys main pitch – uh, Brexit – would benefit the town at all.

Repeatedly asked by a BBC reporter what the benefits for residents would be, Farage was reduced to nothing but the grinning pinstripe he really is – at one point saying something vague about steelworks in an entirely different part of Wales.

Heres the exchange:

“Mr Farage, towns like Merthyr have received millions of pounds of regeneration money…”

“Yes.”

“This whole town centre has been funded by EU grant aid. What will Brexit offer them?”

“Lets be honest about it, its not EU money. Thats one of the great sort of myths and pretensions.”

“But Wales as a whole is a net beneficiary to the tune of £250 million pounds a year. What will Brexit offer?”

“We have so far, over the course of the last few decades given away hundreds of billions…” (more…)

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Fans reaction to Game of Thrones is a reminder that no one owes you the story you want

This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season eight.

Once upon a time, American telev..

This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season eight.

Once upon a time, American television series didnt end: they just stopped. Received wisdom was that endings made shows unattractive in syndication, the permanent repeat market which – due to the insane economics of mid-20th century TV networks – was the only point at which anything made a profit.

Quinn Martin, the producer of The Fugitive, felt the opposite was true. He fought the network and won. That seriess finale became the most watched television episode in American TV history, and began a long slow march to now, where TV is expected to “land” much-anticipated endings.

Which brings us to Game of Thrones.

The dissatisfaction has been brewing for weeks. In the middle series of something like Thrones all the seriess possible endings exist, suspended. Yet no ending to a story an audience has invested dozens of hours over several years can satisfy its entire audience, and epics, especially television epics, narrow as they go on. The number of characters reduces; the number of possible endings collapses. The death of possibility can hit the invested as hard as that of any character.

Some interpreted Jaimes final speech in episode four of this season as indicating an intention to kill Cersei: doing so would redeem him. For them, this weeks episode senselessly reversed Jaimes decision to ride to Winterfell to fight for the living, against the wishes of his sister/lover.

Yet it didnt undo his character development: hes still the man who chose to fight as a common soldier for the living against the dead. Its just that hes still the man who pushed a child out of a window for Cersei, too – which is literally what he said.

Earlier in the season, there were protestations about how that army of the dead was defeated, often from those who had decided it was a metaphor for the climate crisis. This brought scorn that they should be defeated relatively early in the final season, leaving said Cersei and Jaimes under-characterised, over-enunciating fishy rival for her affection, Euron Greyjoy, as the final enemy.

But Game of Thrones is a series that has inverting dramatic convention deep in its dramaturgy. So Jaime – a character the audience has come to enjoy and other characters at last to respect – dies unredeemed. The army of the dead can be defeated.

And Daenerys Stormborn does not walk into Kings Landing at the head of multiple foreign armies to be greeted as a liberator. This last was always a fantasy, even in the context of fantasy, and too many people have said it was going to happen for there to be any chance of it happening at all. Daenerys long march is the only one of Game of Thrones stories that has never quite flipped, until now. (more…)

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Labour seeks to reframe the European elections as a fight against the far right

Can anything arrest the fall in Labour's polling numbers ahead of next week's European Par..

Can anything arrest the fall in Labour's polling numbers ahead of next week's European Parliament elections? Remainers in the PLP believe that calling time on Brexit talks with the government and offering an explicit endorsement of a second referendum is the only option. But party strategists believe an unlikely figure could boost Labour's chances on 23 May: Tommy Robinson.

The far-right activist – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – is standing as an independent candidate in the North West of England. The region elected three Labour MEPs in 2014 but in 2009, as local members have been reminded in emails this week, its eighth seat was taken by Nick Griffin, then leader of the British National Party.

In a campaign dominated by divisions over Europe, Labour has made a deliberate decision to invoke the spectre of Tommy Robinson MEP in a bid to win over wavering voters ahead of next Thursday, and to motivate an activist base MPs allege has been left disenchanted by the party's divisions over Europe. "In the last elections we saw off the BNPs Nick Griffin with your help, we can do the same with Tommy Robinson…Please dont let Brexit be the reason you dont vote next week," one email to members in the North West said.

Writing to the parliamentary Labour party this afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn similarly sought to reframe next week's poll as a chance to "campaign on our radical agenda but also to stand up to the racism, hatred and division of the far-right", in an explicit attempt to overcome party divisions over Europe after a fractious week at Westminster.

"History shows us the appalling outcome if this is allowed to fester and grow, so it is alarming to see the rise of fascist and far-right parties and politicians both here in Britain and across Europe," the Labour leader wrote in an email that did not mention the prospect of a new public vote. "We must never let the far right or those who seek to divide us triumph."

"I will be out campaigning and taking our message to the far right in the coming days, and thank you for the campaigning you have planned between now and Thursday 23rd May to send a message that only the Labour Party and a future Labour government can deliver unity, change and a society that works for the many, not the few."

MPs in the North West and beyond have also been advised to "use Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) to motivate Labour members to campaign for our Party". They have also been advised to support counter-demonstrations against far-right activists.

"For example, if he is in your area, you should communicate with your members to push the message 'only Labour can stop Tommy Robinson and the far-right. Maximising the Labour vote is the only way to do this and so everyone should help on polling day to increase turnout of the Labour vote," the PLP was advised in Corbyn's email this afternoon.

Squeeze leaflets aimed at supporters of smaller parties in the North West urge voters to vote Labour "to fight racism in Europe" and prevent Yaxley-Lennon from winning a seat. They do not mention the party's Brexit stance beyond a promise to "always work closely with European neighbours" and protect environmental standards and workers' rights.

MPs from other regions have been offered the chance to use similar campaign literature in their own areas. With internal tensions over Brexit running high, an anti-far-right campaign is likely to be one of the few messages able to induce a semblance of unity. (more…)

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